Chapter 17

I’ve lost so many hours. Days. So many days with nothing but darkness and blood and the memory of her scent. This body is burned from past days in the sun, hands and feet cracked and blistered, reluctant to heal. There is the bittersweet taste of old blood in my mouth, deep in my throat.

The moons were near to full before time disappeared. My mind has cleared as time moves on. There’s the faintest touch of moisture on my skin, a call of water far away, but reachable. The demons and monster have retreated for the time, but I know they have taken me far from where I need to be.

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Chapter 16

Blood on his hands. Blood on the walls. A still body. A slow river of blood like ink on the floor. Hands shaking, anger or fear? Was it true? Could he truly be such a coward?

Broken skin on his knuckles, broken bones in a body. Had he just done that? Had that anger been him? Face in shaky hands, sticky blood all over. Shaky hands. Shaky arms. His entire body trembled.

What had he done?

New wet warmth; tears?

Crying. Shuddering with sobs. They broke from him, so strong he couldn’t stop them. Couldn’t muffle them.

What did it matter?

His daughters were dead.

JT was gone. Lost somewhere is the darkness.

He was too cowardly to try to change anything.

He truly was a fool.

 

A cough, groan and choked laughter.

Shawn stared in disbelief as the woman sat up, brushing her hair from were it stuck in dried blood.

“You certainly needed that.”

He blinked and blinked but still she was there.

She stood, stretched and walked back and forth. She stopped in front of him, crouched down and grinned. “Feel better?”

His mouth opened and closed on air.

“Thought you killed me?” She dropped to sit. “You don’t have that kind of power.”

“How is that-”

“How long was I out? Did anyone come back?”

“I don’t – no, no one. But-”

“Good.” she stretched out, crossed her ankles casually.

“Who are you?”

She looked up at him. “Why ask questions when you already know the answers?”

“But I don’t know.”

“Ever hear of Liber-shi?”

“What?”

She snapped her fingers before his face and he blinked back. “I thought I killed you. I know I killed you. What’s going on? What is this place? Who are you? Why am I here? Where’s JT?”

“What brought you here this time?”

“This time? I’ve never been here before.”

She sighed. “Okay then. Why did you come here? To this desert?”

“I wanted to know what happened to my daughters. Why they died.”

“Did you come by yourself?”

“No. JT, my friend. She came also. Why?”

“Making conversation.”

“Then tell me why you’re here.”

She sat up. “Don’t you use your head anymore?” she rapped him hard on the head. “You used to be so sly and clever. I’m half considering making a complaint.”

He slapped her hand away. “You’re insane.”

“Actually, that’s you.” She laughed and lay back down. “What’s the last thing you remember before this room?”

“The caves.”

“Why did you enter the caves. You shouldv’ve known better.”

Something tugging at the back of his mind, a thread of a thought. A memory hidden beneath…

I was trying to find JT. She was hurt and we camped here. We got attacked by something…. Running. Yes. There had been running. Couldn’t keep up. There was a secret in the darkness. He wasn’t supposed to …

Shawn blinked.

Lying on the floor.

The woman sitting beside him. Reminded him of a guard animal. His head ached.

“What happened?”

“Lack of food probably. You sure don’t hold up well like before.”

“Why do you keep saying before?”

“You know why.”

“No I don’t.” Exasperated. “I don’t know anything!”

She sighed and leaned back against the wall.

“What’s your name.”

“You know what it is.”

He clenched his jaw. “Humor me.”

She looked at him for a long time. It seemed there was a question in her eyes but then she looked away and sighed again. “We stood like boulders in a hall filled with people like a river.”

“What’s that suppos-” his eyes locked with hers.

“You.”

She dipped her head in acknowledgement.

“You and a boy. Followed my daughters. Why?”

“We were to watch and learn. We… I did not take your family from you.”

“Did that boy?”

She frowned. “He… became… not part of our whole. We were one and he broke us into three and now we are broken again and can not be put back together.” She smiled at him, but her eyes were glassy. “We are all alone in ourselves now.”

“Why would you be watching them?”

“They looked like ours.”

“Ours.” He repeated. Irritated.

“What does it matter now?” she sighed. “No matter what you know, what would you do with what you knew?”

He demanded to know but she lay down, face to the wall, and would not speak again, leaving Shawn to pace, hand on the wall in the darkness, unaware of the footprints he made in her drying blood.

Chapter 15

Eventually, a guard came and let Shawn and the woman down. Shawn was so weak, he crumbled and the guard had to hold him up to release his arm. Shawn was leaning against the wall, limbs tingling, as the guard moved to the woman. He seemed to hesitate before releasing her legs. She kept still until one arm was free.

The guard had to have sensed it because he straightened and punched her hard in the stomach. She hissed but held still. The guard unlocked her other arm and she caught him across the face as she came down. The guard grunted, stumbling back. In the dim light, Shawn saw the sneer on her face, a hunger and excitement. She crouched, animal like, ever sense locked on the guard.

A boot scuffed and two other guards entered. The guard she had hit looked between them and the girl, deciding something. He backed away, all three with eyes locked on her. The door locked after them.

The woman straightened with a laugh.

Shawn stared at her.

She turned to him, sinking back on her haunches, long silver hair brushing the floor.

“You’re rather a coward.”

“Huh?” he blinked.

“Cowards always have that look.”

“I was surprised.”

“Don’t tell me you did not consider hitting one.”

Shawn sighed and stretched out on the floor.

“So, what happened?” She asked. He could hear her pacing back and forth. “What happened after you and Sarah woke up?”

He closed his eyes at the stabbing in his heart. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He heard her crouch beside him and stiffened.

“Do you know why?”

He ignored her.

“You feel guilty.”

He jerked, sat up. “Shut up.”

“Why though? Did you kill them?”

“You don’t know anything!”

Her hand came over his mouth. He pulled back but she caught the back of his head, trapping him. He could not free himself.

She pressed her face to his, her rusty voice so low it was barely audible. “You feel guilty, not because your daughters died. Not because you feel you were somehow responsible. Not even because you are still alive. No. You feel guilty because you are too weak and too cowardly to seek vengeance. You do not want revenge. You just want someone to blame.” She shoved him away, his head cracked against the wall, filled his vision with dancing sparks.

“You know nothing!” He shouted.

She laughed. Cold and cruel. “I know more than you think you know, Shawn Wilcox. And I know why you are here.”

Something closed in his throat.

“I know who killed your family. I know who made you watch as Sarah was slowly cut away from you, piece by piece, into death.”

He leapt up, punching her as hard as he could across the mouth. The cell was red with his fury and he tackled her, screaming swinging shouting “Tell me!”

And she laughed and laughed and laughed.

Capter 14 – Capture

“I had two daughters; Sarah and Bethany. Bethany was fifteen, Sarah twelve. It was the three of us, Bethany the nature lover, Sarah the bookish type.

“We were planning a vacation up north. Bethany had always wanted to be in the mountains in winter. She called it ‘seeing a proper winter’. Sarah wanted to see it also but there was also a rare bookstore she’d heard about.

“It was a couple of months before winter when I started to feel something was off. Felt like I was being watched. At first, I thought I was being paranoid but then Sarah told me she’d started to see the same people over and over, and felt she was being followed. I asked Bethany and she said the same as Sarah. She mentioned there were two new students in her class and just after, the following feeling came. A brother and sister pair who kept to themselves. They always seemed to just beside her, even outside of school.

“The day after, I picked the girls up, wanted to see who Bethany had mentioned. She didn’t even have to point them out to me, I knew who she meant as soon as I saw them. There was something about them… people moved around them like they were boulders in a river. Unmovable. It was so strange, I’d never seen anyone with such a strange energy in them. I mean, they didn’t look all that different from the other students and they didn’t seem to repel people. It was just as if everyone knew they stood on a higher level. Untouchable.

“They saw me and just stood there, open staring as if waiting for something. The girls came up and when I looked back, they were gone. I didn’t know why, I still don’t, but I was so very afraid. I couldn’t stand for several minutes. There was something I couldn’t place that made me want to take my girls and disappear.” Shawn shuddered at the memory. “So strange.”

“We didn’t talk about it but we were all unsettled. Bethany said the twins didn’t come back after that. I was relieved, it didn’t make sense. I felt like I was missing something. Something right in front of me but I didn’t, I don’t, know what it was.”

“On the way to our holiday, the truck hit us. The last thing I remember was seeing the twins standing at the car door, the girl smiled and said something but I do not know what. Bethany, she died instantly. Sarah was in the seat behind me. People pulled us out and then when I woke up, I was chained in a cell with Sarah.”

Chapter 13 – Forgotten in the dark

The figure on the wall stirred eventually. A soft groan, feminine.

Shawn looked over in time to see the upraised face.

A young woman, skin dark in the grey dim light, silver hair dirty but still a touch of beauty.

She turned her head to look around, her eyes finding his.

“Who are you?” A low, quiet tone.

“Shawn.”

“Did you try to kill the queen also?”

“What?”

The woman rested her head back against the wall with a sigh. “Where are you from, Shawn?”

“Sector 15.”

The woman’s head snapped forward. “Human?”

She sounded so shocked he nearly laughed. “What else would I be?”

She laughed and returned her head to the wall. “Unbelievable.”

“I don’t understand.”

“How did you come to be a captive of Asal?”

“What’s Asal?” He said. “What’s your name?”

There was no response and her head stayed upturned. A while later he heard her muttering but could not make out the words. She ignored him when he spoke.

Shawn turned his attention to the bars, watching the occasional passerby. Once a man stopped before the door and stared at him for a long time. No one spoke. No one did anything. The young woman did not return.

The mantra in his head played over and over in the silence. A repeated denial.

No. No. It was impossible.

The screaming was sounding in his head again, now a dull roar but a slow build of pressure.

Outside his mind, everything was silent.

Just two people forgotten in the dark.

Chapter 12

Shawn hung spread eagle to the wall across from a barred door. A hooded figure hung on the wall on his right. The left wall held empty manacles.

“Hello?” Shawn’s voice cracked. “Can you hear me?”

The hood turned toward him.

“Where are we?”

The figure said nothing.

A shadow stopped before the door and metal clanked as the bolt was drawn back, door opening.

A young woman entered, her body backlit, features hidden. She walked to the figure and pulled the hood off. Silver hair tumbled free, hiding the face from Shawn.

The woman gripped the hair, jerking back the head so eyes met.

No words but so much hatred.

She stepped back, her posture superior. Threw her tight fist forward, slamming into an unguarded abdomen.

The figure groaned, curling as much as the manacles would allow.

The woman turned toward Shawn, face still hidden in shadows. She stood there for a time, silent and measuring.

Shawn bit his tongue on his burning questions. Made his own observations.

She turned, dim light falling on her face.

His heart stopped. His breath froze mid-draw.

No.

The woman walked out, the door clanged shut behind her, the lock slid into place.

No.

Footsteps faded away.

No.

Silence.

Not. Possible.